NBC wants kids to know the news, so, Snapchat

NBC News is launching "Stay Tuned," a daily news show exclusive to Snapchat.
Image: snap inc.

Want your daily news update? Perhaps you turn on the television and flip to CNN, open up your laptop and go to Twitter dot com, or ask Amazon’s “Alexa” for your “flash briefing.”

As of Wednesday, there’s another option: take out your phone, click a yellow ghost icon, and watch a few minutes of “Stay Tuned,” NBC News’ Snapchat Show.

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Stay Tuned is the first daily news show on Snapchat, complementing (well actually, somewhat competing with) the publishers newspapers, magazines, and digital-only sites who create editions exclusively for the app and its 166 million daily active users, many of whom are millennials. (Mashable is a Snapchat Discover partner.)

It’s yet another addition to Snapchat in its attempts to become the go-to daily app on your phone. No longer is it just for sexting, or other reasons you want text and photos to disappear. Its also for magazine stories, The Bachelor recaps, original shows, and the latest push: hard news.

Snapchat “is not an audience that is disengaged. We saw our Election Stories get over 35 million views in 24 hours,” said Sean Mills, Snap Inc.’s head of original content. “Im really excited about whats possible with [NBC’s] commitment. They did not go halfway in there. They built a huge team thats solely dedicated to this.”

“Stay Tuned,” hosted by Gadi Schwartz and Savannah Sellers, will include national and international news updates, ranging from politics to pop news.

Image: nbc

This is far from NBC’s first push into Snapchat. Its parent company NBCUniversal invested $500 million in Snap before its initial public offering, and it has run two seasons of a Snapchat exclusive version of The Voice, along with World of Dance, E!s The Rundown, and Saturday Night Live.

But this is the first time NBC is bringing its classic news offering to the kids on Snapchat. Unlike what’s posted to its website, Facebook, YouTube, or displayed on television, the old media brand, owned by Comcast, will be sharing the news in a built-for-mobile format that is exclusive to the popular millennial app.

“Weve been pretty aggressive across the entire digital portfolio,” said Nick Ascheim, head of digital at NBC News. “Weve been executing a renewed digital push, built around loyalty and experimentation and trying to reach a different audience on different platforms.”

While the average age of a viewer on NBC is 54, Snapchat’s core audience is 18 to 24.

While the average age of a viewer on NBC is 54, Snapchat’s core audience is 18 to 24. A Snapchat show can not only create a new audience on a new platform but also expand interest back to its old properties. As Snapchat reported in a Nielsen-commissioned study, Discover partners saw a 16 percent increase in TV “reach.”

For NBC, Stay Tuned requires way more work than taking a few snaps. The new show, which runs about 3 minutes an episode, is produced daily by a team of about 30, based in New York. That team, staffed around the clock, is led by Andrew Springer, who previously worked as Mashable‘s director of growth before joining NBC. NBC’s series will air every morning at 7 a.m. ET, with another daily scheduled update at 4 p.m., and the potential for breaking news segments throughout the day.

“Our guiding editorial principle is what do people need to know. We’re treating these audiences differently [than other NBC shows] because it is a different audience. TODAY does a lot of parenting stuff. Thats not going to be a great for this,” Springer said.

Over the last four months, NBC’s team has learned from Snapchat’s editorial staff, who have been experimenting with their own in-house shows. Snapchat’s expansion into television began with Literally Can’t Even in January 2015, a show about two best friends, when Discover launched. That show is now over, but Snap still runs Good Luck America, a political series hosted by Snap’s Head of News Peter Hamby.

Snapchat created shows so that “we could credibly say, ‘Yes we think we know what mobile storytelling looks like and what works,” Mills said.

Best practices for these series include filming as vertical video, along with using motion graphics, split screens, and text on screen, and having quick cuts.

“It’s a highly concentrated form of storytelling. You want to get right to the point.”

“Its a highly concentrated form of storytelling. You want to get right to the point. You dont want to have a slow tracking shot before you have a big reveal. Youll lose the audience right away. You got to grab the attention right away, and hold it,” Mills said.

“Weve talked with Peter [Hamby] a lot,” Springer said. “We had an example where we had a long sentence about Russia, and he said why dont you just say the Russia stuff.”

For Snap, NBC’s new show is another way to entertain users, driving more engagement, and therefore, bringing in more revenue. Snap has faced a brutal time, so far, as a publicly traded company, with the stock falling from $27 to below $15 per share, as it faces stiff competition from Facebook’s apps copying Stories and other features.

Discover, headed by Snap’s VP of Content Nick Bell, still remains a unique component.

The day after Snap IPOed, we went in the following morning at 9 a.m. and had a meeting. I pictured Nick to be swimming in a pool of champagne. He showed up perfectly scrubbed and coherent, and we had a conversation with what a news channel might look like,” Ascheim said.

“The idea really hasnt deviated much from that conversation, to create a short program, cover the news of the day. Make sure you don’t dumb it down, make it authentic,” he continued.

Given that the daily news show concept is so new for Snapchat, Ascheim, Springer, and Mills each said that they predicted Stay Tuned to change a lot over time.

NBC may face competition soon enough. While they are the first daily news show, the network holds no exclusive. Competitor TV networks ABC, CBS, and CNN, as well as other digital media properties, could soon create their own versions as Snapchat looks to expand from one show running per day to at least three by the end of the year.

“We think its really important that theres a diverse set of publishers,” Mills said. “When something happens in the world, our ambition is our audience will turn to get the context and get the latest from us.”

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